"Is there anything keeping you up at night?" might be the worst question you can pose to a prospect.
Believe it or not, this is still employed by a bunch of consultants out there. It's a side-effect of receiving poor sales training, where you are taught to look for "pain points". Here's why it doesn't work.
If you're the one who's proactively reaching out to prospects (as you should), 98% of them won't have any "problem" in their mind.
Juggling different tasks and priorities, executives don't have enough time, expertise, or budget to take care of it all. They are doing things the best way they can, or know how to. If they were aware and convinced of the need to make changes in their business, they would already be searching for external support.
I repeat: If your prospects saw something as an urgent problem, they would already be on the market - talking not only to you but also your competitors.
That's also why it's useless to try to convince prospects to hire your services. You can't sell anything to someone if they don't want it. You can only propose a solution once they recognize they have a problem worth solving.
As the saying goes, "people love to buy, but hate to be sold to."
You are the expert. You have worked and served a number of similar companies in the past. Asking prospects what their problems are is lazy - don't you have another way to start the conversation, so that they can at least take some value out of it?
Instead of pitching, embrace consultative selling:
- Do presentations that teach and promote new ideas.
- Bring outside perspective and question their status quo.
- Share consultative stories that are relevant for their business.
This is how you create demand and avoid competitive deals. Some companies won't see a compelling case to continue the conversation, but will keep you top-of-mind. Others might be curious on how you can help, and that's great.
Those who have a clear and specific "pain" to solve before talking to you are already publishing RFPs or calling other consulting firms in your space - and if you don't have the "inside track", the odds are against you.